Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ruth Dial Woods, June 12, 1992. Interview L-0078. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Role in women's organizations and the International Women's Year Conference

Woods describes the different women's organizations she was involved in during the 1970s. In particular, Woods focuses on her role on the International Women's Year committee and serving as a delegate for the Houston, Texas, conference in 1975. Interesting here is how Woods describes the tension between her general support for the platforms of the IWY with her opposition to abortion rights and the gay liberation movement, which she saw as at odds with her Southern Baptist heritage.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ruth Dial Woods, June 12, 1992. Interview L-0078. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

I guess I was wondering if you could talk specifically about some of the organizations you were involved in the women's movement? We have a sort of long list of things that you were involved with.
Oh my goodness. Let me see if I can remember. My first women's meeting was on the campus of Duke University and I have no idea who pulled that organization together. Might have been ERA United, to tell you the truth. I was involved with the North Carolina Women's Political Caucus, ERA United, North Carolina Business and Professional Women's Organization, the prestigious women's...the little elite group of women. I shouldn't say that. They weren't elitist, they were just real leaders. North Carolina Women's Forum is the one I was trying to think of. Don't put anything on there about the elite group. And of course I got involved with the Methodist Church and then became involved for about four or five years with the Native American Women's Caucus of the United Methodist Church. Women's Equity Action League. And I guess my first elected position was when I fought for deleting the appointments to the North Carolina State Commission of Indian Affairs. I was instrumental in lobbying for the legislation for the creation of that commission and it ended up with appointees to the commission so it took me about four or five years to work with Governor Jim Hunt and Governor Jim Holshauser to get that to become and elected process by people from the different Indian communities as opposed to the commission electing their members. I got involved, of course, with the state International Women's Year committee and as a result became a state delegate to the International Women's Year and then was appointed by President Carter as a member of the continuing committee.
What were your responsibilities in that position?
We all got to go to Washington, go to the White House and meet the President. [Laughter] The continuing committee did, and sort of network and kept a newsletter going on, but the I.W.Y. conference in Texas was a big experience. It was just like a big political convention with the state delegations and the voting and all. I was pregnant at the time, eight months. I always got pregnant when something big was going on. [Laughter]
Important times.
Yeah, and they didn't want me to fly but I wouldn't have missed the I.W.Y. for anything in the world. We had met and caucused and we knew exactly what we were going to vote for. We were going to be pro-state on the whole platform. That was the first time that I got to hear Congressman Barbara...who was the black Congresswoman who retired from Congress and is teaching at Texas A & M now? Oh my goodness. Oh I was just spellbound. Barbara what? What was her last name? [Interviewer's note: Barbara Jordan] Anyway, she was a black Congresswoman and she spoke at I.W.Y. I walked off the floor. I could get by with it because I was pregnant. But I walked off the floor to smoke a cigarette twice in order to be true to the state delegation and I could not bring myself to vote on abortion, pro-abortion, and I could not bring myself to vote for proߞwhat are we calling it nowߞsexual orientation.
So you just walked so you wouldn't have to...
I was grounded too much in Southern Baptist Belt mentality.